New ways to heal broken hearts
Enlarge image Jazz-at-Heart performing at UCSF (© Germany.info)
From the small town of Rostock in the far northeast of Germany on the Baltic Sea, an unusual combination of visitors arrived in the Bay Area last week. Five professional musicians and a fellow cardiologist accompanied the Director of Cardiac Surgery from University of Rostock, Gustav Steinhoff. Together they are “Jazz-at-Heart”: A jazz band that supports Doctors-without-Borders and a foundation for children with congenital heart disease. The band gave two well-applauded performances at UCSF and at the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute last week. Before joining the band to play the piano, Dr Steinhoff discussed new developments in stem cell therapies to treat heart disease with local experts.
The human heart is only the size of a fist, but it is our strongest muscle and beats on average 100.000 times each day. To keep the heart beating, our coronary arteries must supply the heart muscle with oxygen-rich blood. Approximately one out of every 5 deaths in the U.S. and Germany every year is due to Coronary Heart Disease (CHD), a condition in which plaque builds up in the coronary arteries. The build-up can ultimately lead to complete blockage of the blood vessels in an acute infarctio Enlarge image Wine, food and jazz at UCSF (© Germany.info)
Although physicians today have a number of standardized procedures at hand to treat CHD, researchers are trying to continuously improve outcomes for patients. One exciting new possibility is the use of stem cells to replace damaged heart muscle tissue or to induce the growth of new blood vessels. The idea is simple, but to translate it into a safe and effective clinical procedure is a tremendous task.
Expert’s opinions differ when it comes to choosing which type of cell to use. For his clinical trial in Germany, Dr Steinhoff’s team has decided to use bone marrow stem cells. The stem cells are taken out of the patient’s bone marrow, purified and re-injected into the scarred heart tissue within less than 36 hours. First results from this phase III clinical trial conducted at six different German clinics are expected in January 2013. The hope is that the bone marrow stem cells will spur the growth of blood vessels and thus improve the patient’s heart function. Alternative ideas are to reactivate resident but dormant stem cells in the heart, or to inject so-called induced pluripotent stem cells, which are reprogrammed skin cells that can form functional heart muscle cell Enlarge image Panel discussion with Ingrid Caras (CIRM), Gustav Steinhoff (Universität Rostock), Yerem Yeghiazarians (UCSF) und Randall Lee (UCSF). (© Germany.info)
Stem cell therapies in cardiology are in an early phase of development, but hold great promise to improve patient recovery after cardiac surgery in the future. The goal of last week’s panel discussions and jazz performances was to increase communication and exchange between Steinhoff’s Institute in Rostock and researchers in California who work on similar topics. For about 180 people, Jazz-at-Heart’s music set a wonderful atmosphere to continue the dialogue after the panel discussions
The events were co-organized with UCSF and the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute and supported by Lufthansa, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and the University of Rostock. If you are interested in supporting Jazz-at-Heart, please follow the link: www.jazzatheart.com